Edward Walter Spulnik aka Killer Kowalski, a pro wrestling veteran for 40 years, and the bridge between the eras of his tutor Lou Thesz, and protege Triple-H, passed away yesterday at the age of 81. For persons of a certain age growing up in the Northeastern US, Kowalski was the prototypical monster heel, one whose malevolent charisma compared quite favorably to the stars of today. The Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Eck recalls the first time he witnessed The Killer in action :
I was either 6 or 7, and my parents and I were seated about five rows from the ring. Kowalski™s opponent that night was Tony Garea. With his chiseled features and wavy hair, Garea was the epitome of a white meat babyface. He also was my mother™s favorite wrestler.
In contrast, Kowalski looked as if he had just stepped out of a nightmare. At 6 feet 7 and 275 pounds, he was Frankenstein™s monster in wrestling tights. Unlike the fictional character, however, Kowalski was anything but stiff and plodding. Typically, he would hunch over menacingly, curl his hands into claws out in front of his chest and then pounce on his helpless prey.
Before Garea knew what was happening, Kowalski was all over him. I was close enough to the action to hear Kowalski growling as he viciously stomped his helpless opponent. At one point, Garea screamed out in pain as Kowalski applied his infamous stomach claw hold. I believed it was all real, and I was terrified that Kowalski was going to come into the crowd and make me his next victim.
In other words, Kowalski did his job extremely well.